The following is a guest post from Jenna at Writely Me, an awesome community for writers, by writers. Head on over to get tons of great writing and publishing tips (after you finish reading this, of course).
Dialogue is an essential key to writing and characterization. Dialogue can either make or break your story. It is a way to get your readers to relate to your characters and invest in their feelings. If your story doesn’t convey strong dialogue, has too much dialogue, or too little, then that may result in your readers losing interest in your story.
This is why having realistic dialogue is so important. What is realistic dialogue? Realistic dialogue is when your dialogue is written so that it is easily consumed. So, when someone is reading it sounds like a real conversation, not fake or forced.
Believe it or not, it is really simple to create realistic dialogue. If you just follow the steps below, you will be well on your way to crafting that compelling story!
Avoid Certain Keywords
When writing dialogue, there are certain keywords that you’ll want to avoid. These words and phrases are “he said,” “she said,” “said,” “replied,” and “I replied.” You want to avoid words like these because they are too generic. When you use these words and phrases it is pulling the reader out of your story, which is something you don’t want to happen. Instead, try using different words like “whispered,” “screamed,” “pondered,” “cried.” By using words that show the reader how the character is acting, you are conveying emotion for the reader.
Use More Show and Less Tell
This is more of a practice that should be used throughout your whole story, but more so through your dialogue. When you take the time to show the reader how your characters are feeling and what they are doing, you are helping your readers get invested in the story. An example of show and tell in dialogue would be this:
“I can’t believe you did this to me, Tommy!” Jenny said while crying.
“I can’t believe you did this to me, Tommy!” The tears cascaded like waterfalls down Jenny’s rosy cheeks.
The second way would be a better way of showing your reader your dialogue and how Jenny is feeling than just saying it outright. This method makes your dialogue more powerful and realistic.
Don’t Always End the Dialogue with Something
Sometimes, a continuation of dialogue without any ending is more realistic than a constant “he cried,” “she shouted,” type of deal. By continuing the dialogue it sounds more like a real conversation. For example:
“I can’t believe you did this to me, Tommy!”
“What do you mean what I did to you?!”
“You know exactly what I mean!” Jenny could feel her face growing hot.
“No, actually I don’t.” Tommy shook his head. “You are acting crazy!”
“It’s over, Tommy.”
Notice that even though the dialogue is continuous there are still some minor interjections to show how the characters are acting. By using this method, you are making your dialogue more realistic and understandable.
Stop and Listen
Do you have a hard time constructing dialogue in general? A good way to ensure your dialogue is realistic is by stopping and just listening to people around you. Maybe you are on the train, in class, or just hanging out at home. If you open your ears and take in the conversation around you, then you will be able to get a better understanding of how people communicate with one another. Think about how you and your family or friends communicate. Jot down notes and pay attention to keywords. This will help you write realistic dialogue.
By following the steps above, you will be on your way to crafting realistic dialogue your readers will enjoy. Remember that it isn’t hard, and if you are having trouble, regroup and listen. Before you know it you will be writing dialogue like a pro!
Jenna is a lover of all things literature, cats, and fitness. (Well, sort of. Yoga is pretty cool.) When she isn’t busy co-running her writing website Writely Me, she is running to catch the train, playing with her spontaneous toddler, and freaking out about the latest Ellen Hopkin’s book. Jenna has a finally completed YA Thriller manuscript and attends every writing conference and critique group she can get her hands on. Jenna has interned for a publishing company and writing conference. She hopes to one day continue her love of books by working in publicity for a publishing house. You can catch her book nerdiness and writerly advice over at writelyme.com.
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